A 5-year-old Illinois boy died three years ago at the hands of a man seeking revenge on the boy's father for helping federal agents in their case against other gang members, prosecutors said in court this week as the trial against Miguel Hernandez got under way.
Hernandez is accused of firing shots into a family's car as they drove away from home. The boy, Eric Galarza Jr., was in the backseat and hit by one of the bullets. His parents heard gunshots as they drove away but didn’t realize anyone had been hurt until the boy spoke up.
"He said, 'Daddy, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,'" his aunt recalled the day after the shooting. The boy died at Sherman Hospital in Elgin.
Attorneys said the 5-year-old's father, Eric Galarza Sr., was Hernandez's target. The elder Galarza cooperated with federal authorities on their 2006 investigation into other Elgin gang members.
"It was time for payback," Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Karen Crothers said at the start of the trial inside Cook County’s circuit court in Rolling Meadows, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Defense attorney Damon Cheronis insisted to jurors that police "got the wrong guy."
Hernandez is a second cousin to the victim's mother, Denisse Galarza. He was charged a little more than a week after the shooting.
Galarza Sr. is currently serving a four-year sentence in prison on a battery conviction after pleading guilty to severely beating a man in an unrelated incident at the Cadillac Ranch nightclub in Bartlett.